Describing as despicable and a calculated unleashing of controlled state violence and a horrendous attack against freedoms of movement and association, a pro-democracy Non-Governmental Organization HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the alleged killing of three peaceful Pro-Biafra marchers in Onitsha, Anambra State, South East Nigeria by armed security operatives recently.
In a statement jointly signed by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said it was unconstitutional for armed security operatives to employ maximum military brute force to disperse peaceful civilian demonstrators irrespective of the nature of their advocacy campaign or agitations even for self government.
The group has therefore called on the Nigerian government to commence transparent, open and dispassionate investigation of the sad development with the aim of bringing the alleged masterminds of the killings of peaceful civilian marchers in Onitsha to justice for crime against humanity. It however restated the resolve of the group to compile evidences of crimes against humanity by Nigerian Armed Forces against civilians to global crimes court for prosecution of offenders in military/police uniforms.
Besides, the Rights group has asked President Buhari to address the evidently and glaring cases of systematic underdevelopment and lack of federal government developmental projects in the South East of Nigeria as the best panacea to discourage the growing agitations for self rule by the clear majority of Nigerians of South East extraction who now have the bottled up angst about being sidelined in the scheme of things in the Nigerian state.
HURIWA also asked President Buhari to adopt constructive and peaceful dialogue with leaders of the Pro-Biafra group to convince the people that they should be proud to be the Nigerians that they are and not continue with agitations for self rule.
The group said the Federal Government must educate the hierarchy and operatives of the Nigerian armed forces to accept the legal reality that all international binding humanitarian laws such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the international covenant on civil political rights recognize agitation for self rule.
HURIWA stated thus; “The incessant killings of peaceful agitators for self rule government for South East of Nigeria under the platform of Pro-Biafra groups amounts to crime against humanity and the perpetrator must not be given Federal Government cover. These spates of killings will amount to state sponsored terrorism if the perpetrators are not identified, arrested, prosecuted and punished.”
“Under the fundamental rights provisions of the Nigerian constitution in section 33(1), every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a Court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria. The members of the armed forces do not have the legal right to shoot at peaceful demonstrators.”
HURIWA also said that Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that; “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
The group said it has since set up a research team to collate all information on crimes against humanity committed by Nigerian Armed Forces in the last 16 years for their onward transmission to the international criminal court for remedial redress and sanction of the offenders no matter how highly placed .
HURIWA recalls that newspapers reported that not less than three persons were feared dead and about twenty others wounded on Sunday when members of a new pro- Biafra group-the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) and armed security operatives clashed.
It was not clear what caused the trouble, but one of the injured persons, Mr. Chinwendu Ikechukwu said the group was carrying out an evangelism programme on the need for people to embrace Biafra Republic in parts of Nkpor , Idemili North local government area after their routine meeting, adding that it was while they were on the street that security operatives opened fire on them.
He said: “On reaching Okpoko junction, we were accosted by a detachment of policemen who fired tear gas on our members numbering about 5000, but they later allowed us to go since we were non violent.
“However, on reaching Uga junction close to the Niger Bridge Head, the Naval men on duty there opened fire on us. In our defenseless state, three of our members were shot dead, while about twenty others sustained injuries. Even the police who initially allowed us to go later joined in shooting our members.”
HURIWA said these spate of terrorism unleashed on largely peaceful civilian marchers must not be swept under the carpet.